John Paul Jones’ isolated bass on Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is proof he’s an underrated master
‘Whole Lotta Love’ is up there as being Led Zeppelin’s magnum opus thanks to astounding performances across the board from the four horsemen of rock. It’s a song that we have already widely celebrated at Far Out such as Robert Plant‘s vocal delivery and John Bonham’s powerful drums but we think that John Paul Jones’ bass doesn’t receive its fair share of love.
When you think of Led Zeppelin and this track especially, instantly Robert Plant’s incredible vocals come to mind or perhaps, it’s John Bonham’s powerhouse performance or the sheer flair of Jimmy Page’s. But none of those three work if it isn’t for John Paul Jones’ performance that quietly glues everything together, letting the other three performances take the plaudits.
The track was masterminded by Jimmy Page, something Jones spoke to Uncut about at some length including some of the nuanced decisions that the guitarist made which caused such mindblowing results: “The backwards echo stuff. A lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Using distance-miking… and small amplifiers. Everybody thinks we go in the studio with huge walls of amplifiers, but he doesn’t. He uses a really small amplifier and he just mikes it up really well, so that it fits into a sonic picture.”
‘Whole Lotta Love’ was the first track on Led Zeppelin II, it is undoubtedly up there as the most perfect album ever. It sets the tone perfectly for the wild journey that you’re about to endeavour upon and Jones’ role is greatly swept under the rug. Jones may well be the forgotten member of the band but far from a comment on his ability it’s a comment on Jones’ resistance of fame.
Jones might not have the same level of fame as the likes of Jimmy Page, however, one thing he doesn’t lack is respect from his contemporaries. Ranging from the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana who both cite him as an inspiration, which is some praise of the highest regard.
When Jones formed Them Crooked Vultures alongside Dave Grohl and Josh Homme in 2009, the Queens of The Stone Age frontman took a second to try and believe he was in a band with the man he hero-worshipped as a child, telling Westword: “I really respect Jones. It took me a second to just stop watching and start playing. It took me a second to stop listening to what was going on and sort of add more of my own ingredient to the mixture, because I think I was just curious.”
“But frankly, for everything to work properly, everyone needs to step forward so that the three ingredients are really prominent. Otherwise, it’s just kind of a lopsided paste I suppose.” Jones is the ultimate understated hero, the rhythm that allows Led Zeppelin to give us a ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and a whole lot more.
Listen to the isolated bass version of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and take a moment to appreciate perhaps the most underrated bassist of all time.